I have 20 apartments on Santorini, that’s enough. Here, I buy land, but I don’t want to make a hotel here. I would like to build a small house, at the entrance of the bay ... There are too many houses in Vathy (Ithaca), I don’t like it. I bought a very old house in Lefki (Ithaca) and I’m going to repair it, and up on the road I made a gallery. I have a very good friend, a captain, he is Croatian, but he lives in Slovenia. My friend is coming to stay in Ithaca, and he and his wife will start a gallery in Lefki. It’s nice there, it’s easy, there’s only one restaurant in Lefki.
There are 3,000 people living on Ithaca. On Santorini, there are 13,000 locals, 6,500 Albanians, and 10,000 people from Greece that come for bushiness and don’t live there the whole year. It’s too much for Santorini, for its size. They are building non-stop. It used to be 12 villages, and 11 of them are now one big city. On Zakynthos everybody is building – hotels, restaurants, bars ... On Ithaca, you can find people that think like me, about trees, olives, wine, beer, but in two or three years it will be completely different. They have nice cheese, nice honey … But it will be different.
Chrisantos started his cheese business because there was a lot of milk and he wanted to help the community.
My factory (on Ithaca) is small; we collect 1,500 kg of milk every two days. On Kefalonia, every milk factory has 30 tonnes a day. The milk on Ithaca is unique, it’s different, but there is less of it here, and the cost is higher, so I take it from the mainland. I would like to collect 5 tonnes a day, but I only collect 750 kg. This is for 4 months, but the factory is working eight month. We will go for fishing, restaurant, we will open a bar, offer rooms … I have a very good idea, I haven't told the locals about it yet. I have a hotel on Santorini, it’s called Homeric Poems. In a few months, I’ll have the approval from the government, and I already have a name for a new factory: Ithaca’s Poem. Here, I have 1,500 kg in two days, but I go to Troy (which is in Turkey now!) and I make the rest, 30, 40 tonnes a day, three different milks. The factory will be ready in one month. So there will be Ithaca Odyssey brand cheese from here, and from Troy Iliad from Troy. Different taste, different ideas, and different price, of course. From Troy, I send the cheese to America. Why did I start all this? I don’t know … Every day is different. I spoke with some Greek people there and I started a small company for export of the cheese. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I hope everything goes well [laughs].
I grew up on Santorini, went to school there. It is smaller, one side is cliff, and the other side is normal. I worked there for many years, and I’m okay now, my family is here on Ithaca. My grandfather is a ship agent, my father, myself. And now, my son as well. I worked as first officer on ships, and that is good because I have gained many experience, and in my job, that’s what counts the most. I worked with my father. For me, it’s very easy, because when I’m going on board, I know everything. I talk to the captains and I explain the local situation, small bays … Now the ships are full of technology, but I know how to explain to the captain how to navigate the bays. I have three kids – the twins are 27 years old, and the third one is 28 years old and works in Athens as a veterinarian. The twins work on Santorini for 7 months, and the rest of the year they are here. For me, it’s very important to travel (Kefalonia, Athens, Istanbul). There is a big conference on cruising and cruise ships in Miami every year, the biggest in the world, and I went there.
- It was my job for many years to bring cruise ships here (Greece). I organize the arrival of cruise ships to Santorini and the tours around the island (archaeological sites, wineries, taverns …). It’s only for the money. I know everybody; it’s that kind of business. I went to Miami and I know all the companies. So when they asked me here in Vathy (Ithaca) to bring cruise ships, I said yes, but didn’t give them any information ... That was it ... In 5 minutes, it was done... "Yes" can sometimes mean "no" here.
- They are not ships, they are hotels. The boss inside is not the captain, it’s the hotel manager. This is a problem. He doesn’t understand if it’s too much wind because he is a hotel manager. But all ships are like that now. They only stay for a short while, because the less time you have on the island, the more money you can spend on the ship, and they take revenues from shops, restaurants, bars … They leave and then slowly, slowly cruise to the Adriatic, so you have a whole night and day on board. And you have 36 hours inside, with swimming pools, bars, everything. They are hotels, not ships.
People on Santorini do it for the money, they don’t understand. I see my friends only late at night, and really quickly. Everybody talks about money. I don’t like that. For my cheese factory on Ithaca, I spend money, I don’t collect it [laughs]. I give, and I like that. I take money from Santorini; I don’t like to take money from here. I like it here. This is Ithaca.
Ithaca today is Santorini from 40 years ago, easy … The government is selling everything now, the country is sold out.
Future of Ithaca? Look, for many years, local people stayed on the entrance of the Vathy bay, with their doors closed. You could just pass through with a little sailing boat. Everybody knows Ithaca. Everybody! The locals don’t want more people to come. There are only 800 beds (hotels, rooms) on the island. That’s it. But one day, if the doors open, Ithaca will be like Santorini or Mykonos. You lose the island. One day, the doors will open, and after that …
I try to find the modern Odysseus. People are returning from Australia, South Africa, they are local people, and they are coming back, like modern Odysseus. I find that people take pictures, write their stories ... Two people from Stavros, Yannis and his wife, 82 years old ... They are fantastic people. I will go there once a week, quarter to twelve, and visit them, talk to Yiannis, drink some wine, listen to him. He always has new stories, I collected many stories, many videos there throughout the years.